2012 has been a year of dramatic political change ending with the US elections in less than a month’s time. When Americans take to the polls they will not only be voting for a President but also for policies that may irreparably shift the direction of American domestic politics and its influence on the world stage. For Americans themselves, the 2012 election stands for resolving many of the same issues we have been facing in Europe, those on the economy, job creation, taxation, the military, healthcare, corruption and plugging its 16 trillion dollars worth of debt. Ultimately, these issues will determine the outcome of this election.
As of now, Obama is gaining in opinion polls with around 49% approval rating, while Romney holds at 46% (Source Gallup Polls). Both are trying eagerly to target ‘middle class America’, with combined spending of around one billion dollars to ensure they secure those key voters particularly in the swing states. The TV debates have shown, that Romney can be a formidable opponent, yet, his recent slips have cost him some of the faith Republican voters had in him, while Obama’s performance has been described as slightly lackluster.
Americans I spoke with were generally dismayed by the first round of debates, where they found that neither Obama or Romney adequately spelled out their future agenda if elected. Nevertheless, these debates do highlight the acute polarization of American politics between those who wish greater or lesser government intervention, military dominance, private vs. the public sector and so forth, you see this between, and even, inside different states depending on which part of America you live in.
This can cause a number of problems for American voters when they decide to vote due to the way the voting system is set up in the US. The Electoral College System can basically render some votes redundant if you wish to vote Democrat in a largely Republican state, since the vote will have already been decided by elected officials during the primaries (registered Republicans and Democrats determine by vote who the elected officials will be) the outcome of the vote is largely predetermined when the elections come around. The exception being, of course, in the swing states where you have many undecided voters who will effectively determine the outcome of the overall elections.
It is worth keeping in mind in a country where demographics matter, various political, economic and social issues will be felt differently across the country and each candidate will have to appeal to different concerns in these groups, Romney has to concentrate on targeting female voters while Obama must pursue the Latino vote.
What’s clear, is that both candidates do not stick to a solid policy plan if they wish to appeal to all these groups across the US. This has meant, that the electorate deeply distrust any claim made by either candidates since they seem to lack a clear overall picture of what they intend to do once elected. Whoever wins the race to the White House will have to move beyond the rhetoric and actually make a realistic plan to turn the economy around. Maybe it’s also time to ask why so much money is necessary in order to win an election, particularly at a time when poverty is increasing in many places across the US.
For more on the Electoral College: